Japanese music culture has always been adept at absorbing Western musical forms and translating them into familiar but distinctly new concepts. Shonen Knife may have begun as a de facto Ramones tribute, but the band has grown into a unique sonic entity that embraces all genres and reconfigures them into its own singular sound. Given that, what can we make of Peelander-Z?
The Pop/Punk outfit didn’t exactly evolve into a group with a broad range of musical expression over its 17-year history. The band exploded on the scene like a human collage of disparate but weirdly connected sights and sounds. Imagine a Punk band with a fashion sense that sits somewhere in the triangulated void between Teletubbies, Power Rangers and Yo Gabba Gabba, and which also claims to be visitors from Planet Peelander who are not wearing costumes but actually revealing their true alien natures to Earthlings.
And what does Punk — which is to say, in PZ parlance, “Japanese Action Comic Punk” — sound like on Planet Peelander? A little like The Dead Kennedys, All and The Specials singing about food (“Taco Taco Tacos,” “S.T.E.A.K.”), rabid jungle cats (“Mad Tiger”), educational opportunities for skilled assassins (“Ninja High School”), promoting better eye care (“Get Glasses”) and the overabundance of Michaels (“So Many Mike”). The band’s ninth and latest album, 2013’s Metalander-Z, found PZ channeling AC/DC and Def Leppard, while maintaining its trademark high-concept oddballery on tracks like “Ride on the Shooting Star” and “High Five Boy.”
What does all of this look like? Identify band members by their sartorial/genetic color choice (Yellow has been guitarist, lead vocalist and chief lunatic from the start), add in elements of weird bar stunt promotions like human bowling and limbo dancing and big time wrestling maneuvers like weaponized folding chairs (in fact, the band has won two Hardcore Championship Wrestling title bouts), and you’ve got an inkling. Peelander-Z has boggled fans’ minds on the Vans Warped Tour and at SXSW, where the group proved the community’s official slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” doesn’t even come close to describing the possibilities inherent in a Peelander-Z appearance.
EELANDER-Z plays Southgate House Revival's Revival Room Tuesday. Tickets/more info here.